Sonic Directions to the Urban Student: Lyotard, the Megalopolis, and Not Listening as Pedagogy

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This article contributes to research on Lyotard and sounds by taking up the urban as an ensemble that is immediately a matter of sound and education, approaching pedagogy not as a tactic but as a sonic mode of and relation to thought. It begins by exploring the sounding state of the contemporary urban environment as it’s organised around the production and circulation of information and knowledge. Hearing and listening in this urban setting are privatised such that the possibility of sonic interruptions is foreclosed. The article turns next to Jean-François Lyotard’s writing on the urban, which positions urbanism as a system that demands exchange and communication and as a social form that doesn’t avoid or repress interruptions, but rather consumes and absorbs them as sources of new accumulation. Connecting Lyotard’s urbanism with his work on writing and sound, the article then articulates three forms of sonic pedagogy: hearing, listening, and not listening. In this pedagogical schema, the primary problem of the urban today is that hearing and listening dominate at the expense of not listening. This configuration positions students as deficient adults who must grow up as quickly as possible, thereby depriving the student of the ability to be and remain a student. The sonic pedagogies developed in the article, then, have the potential to resist the privatising listening practices of the urban that compel opacity into transparency and to potentially reconfigure the urban around exposure to thought and childhood.

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